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After Months of Hard Times, IT Workforce Leveling Off

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After many long months of layoffs and hiring freezes, the IT workforce is starting to level off.

The high-tech workforce has suffered greatly over the past two years, shrinking by 560,000 jobs, according to the American Electronics Association. High-tech employment dropped from 5.7 million jobs in January, 2001 to 5.1 million jobs in December, 2002. The numbers were compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But the industry is evening off and even showing some signs of slightly edging onto an upswing.

The down swing in the IT workforce started to even out in the fourth quarter of 2002, according to a new report by Dice, Inc., an online recruiting service, and the Information Technology Association of America. Both hiring and layoffs equaled out in the last quarter, helping 2002 show a 3.3 percent IT job gain.

The ITAA/Dice data shows that there was a net gain of 97,000 jobs in the fourth quarter. That’s down from the 147,000 jobs gained in the third quarter.

The study also shows that non-IT companies hired more IT professionals than IT companies by 10-to-one in the fourth quarter.

And even though there were fewer IT workers hired in the fourth quarter (265,000) than in the previous three, there also were fewer dismissals. In comparison, 168,000 workers were let go in the fourth quarter of 2002; 211,000 in the third quarter, and about 350,000 in both the first and second quarters.

And the news is good for Java programmers. The study shows that Java is now the most in-demand skill, growing 27% to 4,171 jobs listed on Dice over the past year. SQL Software, C, C++, Oracle and Windows NT round out the top five skills in demand.

”Both hiring and dismissals were at their lowest in the fourth quarter, showing relatively stable workforce patterns in what is often a seasonally soft quarter for hiring activity,” says ITAA President Harris N. Miller. ”Unlike late last year, we’re seeing less optimism from hiring managers as they anticipate their needs over the next year, most likely because of instability from the war and other economic factors.”

IT managers predict they will need to hire an additional 874,327 workers over the upcoming months, a prediction that is down from the third quarter and the beginning of 2002.

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